Judge Tells AT&T And DOJ To Be Prepared To Discuss Settlement On T-Mobile Deal

The judge in the Justice Dept. lawsuit to block AT&T’s purchase of T-Mobile USA has not only set a date for the first hearing in the case, she’s also advised both sides to start thinking about settlement terms.

Judge Ellen Huvelle of the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC, has set a hearing date for September 21. Additionally, DealBook reports that she ordered that “the parties shall be prepared to discuss the prospects for settlement.”

In its complaint, the DOJ states that “AT&T’s elimination of T-Mobile as an independent, low- priced rival would remove a significant competitive force from the market,” but it appears like there might be some wiggle room for a settlement. Last week, the acting assistant attorney general noted of the case, “We apprised them of our serious concerns. And as any party can do, our door is open.”

AT&T has maintained that the merger would be a boon for employment and for access to wireless broadband in currently under-served areas of the country. The company, which would have to pay billions to T-Mobile’s current parent company Deutsche Telekom if the deal falls through, has said it will fight the DOJ’s attempt to block the merger.

Judge Sets Hearing on AT&T Deal [DealBook]